Born Christina Milian on September 26, 1981, in Jersey City, NJ; daughter of Don (a laboratory technician) and Carmen (Milian's stylist). Addresses: Record company--Def Soul Recordings, 160 Varick St., New York, NY 10013.
Singer and actor Christina Milian has been working since her childhood. She has had two Billboard top five hits and has appeared in several films. She has often been compared to other popular young female stars, such as Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, or Beyoncé, but Milian has taken this in stride. "It's funny that everyone calls me 'the new' everything," she told Lina Das in the London Daily Mail. "I just like to think of myself as me."
Milian is the daughter of Cuban immigrants. Her parents, Don and Carmen, both moved to the United States when they were children. She grew up in New Jersey and Maryland, and knew from an early age that she wanted to act and sing. Her first acting role, which she won when she was eight, was in a National Geographic school film about temperature. When she was nine years old she began taking voice lessons, and also appeared in her first commercial, an ad for the Wendy's fast-food chain.
However, Milian's talent did not necessarily make her life easier. When the family moved to Maryland, she found that her Cuban origins confused her schoolmates, who assumed that everyone had to be either white or black. "What are you?," they would ask, according to Das. "Black or white?" As a result, Milian hated school and was suspended several times for fighting over these incidents. In addition, some of the other students were jealous of the fact that she missed school in order to participate in auditions, and of the fact that she appeared on television. Milian told Lauren Brown in CosmoGirl! that when she was in middle school, other girls would say to her, "My boyfriend saw you in a commercial and now he likes you---so let's fight."
In 1997 Milian's family moved to California so that the young girl could pursue her acting career, but soon afterward, her father decided that he wanted to go back to Maryland, and he abandoned the family. "He took away all our access to any money, cut off our credit cards and basically left us without anything at all," Milian told Das. He seemed intent on forcing the family out of California so they would have to return to Maryland with him. However, Milian, her mother, and her two younger sisters, Danielle and Elizabeth, defied him and stayed in California, going through a tough time of being almost homeless and completely broke. Milian helped her mother with housecleaning jobs, and also babysat to make money. The family couldn't afford bus fare, so Milian and her sisters walked four miles to school every day, hoping they would find someone to give them a ride home. The family considered moving into a homeless shelter, but decided to tough things out on their own.
Milian told Das that they got some of their food from a local church. "They used to hand out cans of food and rice and some of the bags of rice had ants in them. We also used to sneak into McDonald's and take their toilet paper because we didn't have any." When there were auditions or dinner meetings that involved food, Milian brought leftovers home for her sisters to eat. During this time she also found a stray dog, which she named Baby, and brought it home. Her mother protested that they didn't have enough food for themselves, let alone a dog, but the dog cheered them up, and Milian still has it.
In 1995 Milian appeared in the film Get Shorty, which featured John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, and James Gandolfini. She was starstruck by this experience, especially over her scene with John Travolta. "It was like something out of a dream when I actually got to star in a film with him," she told Das. "In one scene I'm meant to be acting all nervous and he comes and kisses me on the forehead." She added, "The nice thing is that he's so humble and sweet."
Milian continued to work on her music. She collaborated with Ja Rule on his 2000 hit "Between You and Me," and cowrote Jennifer Lopez's 2001 hit song "Play." When Milian was 18, her persistence finally paid off. She signed with the Def Soul label and was scheduled to release her self-titled debut album in September of 2001. However, this dream disappeared with the terrorist attacks of September 11, which had a widespread effect on the economy. Her album was put on hold and then dropped. It was finally released in Europe in 2002, and did well in Britain. In the London Guardian, reviewer John Aizlewood wrote that where Milian "really scores is with shiny R&B pop," adding that she "barely puts a foot wrong throughout." A single from the album, "AM to PM," reached the top five of the Billboard R&B list in the United States.
Disappointed with her lack of an American release for her album, Milian decided to return to acting, and again auditioned for film roles. She appeared in the film Def Jam Vendetta, and also wrote the theme song for Disney's cartoon Kim Possible.
In 2003 Milian appeared in the film Love Don't Cost a Thing, which also starred Nick Cannon and Steve Harvey. The film, a comedy, was a remake of the 1987 movie Can't Buy Me Love. According to Carla Meyer in the San Francisco Chronicle, "it's your basic rich-girl-transforms-nerd story." When Milian's character, Paris, wrecks her mother's SUV, Nick Cannon's character, an engineering geek, offers to rebuild it if she becomes his girlfriend for a few weeks.
In 2004 she finished another film, Cheer Up, later renamed Man of the House, an action comedy starring Tommy Lee Jones as a Texas ranger who must protect a group of cheerleaders who witnessed a murder. Milian plays one of the cheerleaders. While working on Man of the House, Milian got to work with Steve Tyler, the lead singer of the heavy metal band Aerosmith. In the film the two perform a duet together; the scene was performed in front of an audience of 30,000 people. "Afterwards," Milian told Das, "I walked off stage thinking, 'Is this really my life?' Sometimes, I just can't believe this is all happening to me."
Milian's second album, It's About Time, was released in 2004, and received favorable reviews. Chuck Arnold wrote in People, "Though Milian is still in search of her own sound, all these songs make for a good time." The album's track "Dip It Low" became a top five Billboard hit. The album included songs by many big names in R&B, such as Warryn Campbell, Corey Rooney, Polli Paul, and Bryan Cox, as well as songs that Milian cowrote. Milian told Julee Greenberg in WWD, "This album shows a lot of maturing in my lyrics." The album received a Grammy nomination in October of 2004 for Best Contemporary R&B Album; Milian's song "Dip It Low" was nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
Milian told Jake Coyle in America's Intelligence Wire that she had always hoped to have a career in both singing and acting. When Coyle told her that some young girls look up to her as a role model, she said, "I definitely just tell the girls ... to be their own person. There are a lot of people out there that they look up to. At the end of the day you have to be your own person and love yourself."
by Kelly Winters
Christina Milian's Career
Began acting in educational films and commercials, 1989; appeared in films Clip's Place, 1998; The Wood, 1999; Christina Milian, 2001; provided voice in Def Jam Vendetta, 2003; Torque, 2003; appeared in film Man of the House, 2005.
- America's Intelligence Wire, September 17, 2004.
- CosmoGirl!, March 2002, p. 32.
- Daily Mail (London, England), August 21, 2004, p. 22.
- Guardian (London, England), January 25, 2002, p. 17.
- People, June 21, 2004. p. 41.
- San Francisco Chronicle, December 12, 2003, p. I5.
- Seattle Times, September 15, 2004, p. F5.
- Teen Magazine, May 2002, p. 66.
- Teen People, December 1, 2004, p. 98.
- WWD, January 8, 2004, p. 6.